Name: Mark Chisnell

Where are you from: Norfolk in England

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:

I was brought up on the east coast of England, close to both the sea and an inland network of lakes called the Norfolk Broads, so boats were everywhere. I started racing sailing dinghies, got a degree in physics and philosophy and then worked in a factory for a summer to buy a ticket to Australia, with a vague plan to see some stuff and write a book.


By the time I got home I’d published some travel stories in the New Zealand Herald and the South China Morning Post, and I’d broken into the professional sailing circuit via the British America’s Cup team that was racing in Australia at the time. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between those two things – writing and pro sailboat racing – ever since, before finally settling on writing.

I now live on the south coast of England, with my lovely wife and two young and unbelievably energetic sons – whenever I get a couple of minutes peace I can usually be found reading a Lee Child novel.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

My most recent book is the thriller Chinese Burn – this is the second in a series of featuring Sam Blackett, a Vermont backcountry girl and a wannabe investigative journalist.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first novel in the back of a school exercise book aged 12!

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I guess that would be after having a travel story published in the New Zealand Herald.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

I honestly couldn’t say, I’ve wanted to write since before I can remember.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ve written everything from technical books and manuals, to advertising copy and narrative non-fiction to novels, so I’ve constantly had to adapt the style to the medium.

But in the case of the novels, I aim to write the kind of stories that keep you turning the pages on holiday, and still thinking about them when you get back to work… They are mainstream action thrillers in the mould of John le Carre or Robert Ludlum, and they all have some sort of moral centre to them, something that will make you wonder about the values and principles that bound your own life. I hope people are left thinking about the characters and their decisions. And perhaps thinking about what they might have done in that same situation – the extreme choices in the books do still reflect on things we do every single day.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?

I think Chinese Burn is pretty realistic – all my books are, I do a lot of research and work hard at getting the details right.

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

There are five writers that I particularly loved when I was younger, whose influence I can now see in my own work. The first was Arthur Ransome, who wrote fantastic children’s books about messing around in boats. They really sparked my love of the ocean. The next two were Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean. The latter is almost forgotten now, but he was a hugely successful thriller writer in the 1960s and 1970s, and I could inhale one of his books in an afternoon when I was a kid.


When I was a little older it was books with ideas that took more of a hold – George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm stopped me in my tracks for weeks, I couldn’t think about anything else. And then there was another largely forgotten book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – that was the one that got me studying philosophy as well as physics, so it had a pretty big impact on my life.

Fiona: What book are you reading now?

It’s a novel about the Vietnam War called Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, I’m getting ready to right another in my Janac series based on his experiences as a sniper in Vietnam.

Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

There are two tough bits; the first is the middle 50,000 to 60,000 words of the first draft – this is when you’ve lost the thrill of beginning, but can’t yet even imagine the finish line, yet alone see it. The other tough part is the final check of the final draft, when you know that any mistakes or errors that you miss will be seen by the readers – that knowledge always makes me stressed!

Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Work hard and don’t give up – but always have a plan B, very few people make a living from writing.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?

Reading, movies and any sport – surfing, cycling, yoga, football.. whatever really!

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

The Wire is the greatest tv show ever made, but right now I’m enjoying Game of Thrones and The Americans.

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

This is it, this was my dream. I wouldn’t mind having come up with a solution to climate change though! 

Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

Powder Burn:

Chinese Burn:

The Defector:

The Wrecking Crew:

The Sniper:

The Fulcrum Files: